Ursinus President Bobby Fong, 64, dies of natural causes

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Bobby Fong

Bobby Fong, the president of Ursinus College, died suddenly Monday morning at his home of natural causes, the college announced.

His wife of 40 years, Suzanne Dunham Fong, was by his side, according to a statement from the college.

Fong, who was 64, one of a few Asian college presidents in the nation and had been at helm of the small liberal arts college in Collegeville since 2011. His death stunned the college community, which learned of his passing by an e-mail.

"President Fong was a teacher and scholar before he became an academic administrator and he continued to be so even as a college president," said Lucien "Terry" Winegar, executive vice president for academic affairs and dean.

Born in Oakland, Calif., the son of Chinese immigrants, Fong attended Harvard University on a scholarship and graduated magna cum laude in 1973. He earned a doctorate of English literature from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1978 and is a world authority on Oscar Wilde.

"He was an inspiring leader in higher education and had an unflinching commitment to liberal education," Winegar said. "He was dedicated to Ursinus College and was so very proud of our faculty, students and staff. He had a long and distinguished career that included two presidencies, two deanships and a well-earned reputation for his scholarship. He will be missed, both on our campus and within higher education nationally."

Fong started his academic career teaching English at Berea College in Kentucky and later became dean of arts and humanities at Hope College in Michigan, then the dean of the faculty at Hamilton College in upstate New York.

He was named president of Butler University in Indianapolis in 2001. He became Ursinus' 15th president in July, 2011, succeeding John Strassburger, who retired in February 2010 and died that September.

At Ursinus, Fong led the development of a seven-year strategic plan and established two interdisciplinary centers: the Center for Science and the Common Good and the U-Imagine! Center for Integrative and Entrepreneurial Studies. Fong made connections with Chinese universities and recruited more international students, including 14 from China this fall.

In addition to his wife, Fong is survived by two sons, Jonathan and Nicholas ("Colin"). Information on funeral arrangements is not yet available.

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